We’ve been collecting stories of seal encounters from up and down the UK coastline and inland waters from ASI instructors, students and the wider paddling community. Here’s another fabulous encounter with sociable seal, Dandy on the River Witham, a beautiful and often remote river that flows through the English county of Lincolnshire.
ASI instructor, Phil May captured the moment when one of his students was suddenly surprised by Dandy’s antics! It even made the BBC news!
A beginner’s lesson turned into a wild seal encounter when Dandy pulled himself aboard one of ASI SUP instructor, Phil May’s, student’s boards! Phil’s SUP school, Yellowbelly SUP is based on the River Witham and Phil was aware that Dandy was often spotted in the neighbourhood.
"There have been rumours before of the Witham Seal, well here he is," he said.
Phil recognised that the seal had an orange tracking tag so he contacted the team at Natureland Seal Sanctuary to make them aware of the encounter. They discovered that it was indeed, Dandy who had been released by the RSPCA into the sea in 2017.
"It's cool to be able to put a bit of history to the seal and find out where it's come from." said Phil.
Phil’s student, Robyn, was taken by surprise but everybody kept cool heads, allowed Dandy to have his fun before slipping away and off down the river.
"He spent 10-15 minutes with the group, climbing on two different boards before swimming away," he said.
Remember, should you come across seals it’s important to engage mindfully with the encounter. ASI instructor and marine biologist, Alana Bonnick (from ASI SUP School - The Paddle Shack) gives us this advice:
“Always keep 100 yards away from marine life as they are wild animals and therefore can be unpredictable. If humans get too close we can also cause large amounts of stress to the animal which in some cases can result in injury, so it is best to just keep your distance! It is fine if the animal's curiosity gets the better of them and they decide to venture closer, like I said, I've had some very close encounters! But it is just important that it is on their terms.”
Find out more about the UK’s seal population, how you can help them and what to do if you encounter them whilst out paddling in our interview with the Cornish Seal Sanctuary https://www.academyofsurfing.com/news/tips-for-seal-encounters-and-the-cornish-seal-sanctuary
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Send us your seal encounter stories if you want your very own, limited edition, Cornish Seal Sanctuary water bottle!